What is a gateway drug

Find Drug Abuse Treatment Near You:

Call (888) 644-6099 to get 24/7 help with treatment.


You looked forward to the day when you could legally go to a bar and order an alcoholic beverage, and you did enjoy the freedom of meeting your coworkers for a drink after work. Soon, someone new to the group introduced you to the art of smoking weed. They had obviously done it for years and was one of the brightest people you knew. Why not try?! You end up discovering that smoking marijuana feels way better than drinking alcohol; however, in combination…whoa! No one ever intends to become dependent on drugs, but it happens to millions of people. So, what leads someone to add another substance to their regimen? Was alcohol their gateway drug to stronger substances?

Researchers are continuously studying ways to enhance and extend the lives humans. Often studied is how natural and synthetic chemical substances affect the brain. There is an argument to each side of the gateway hypothesis, which states that someone who uses any form of mind-altering substance, even nicotine, can be led down the path of using additional substances. While there are no clinical statistics that have absolutely proven or disproven this theory, permanent changes to the neuroadaptation process of the brain have been discovered when substances are consistently used at younger ages. The activity of the dopamine receptors is decreased later in adulthood, causing those individuals to continue to use or seek out stronger drugs.

What is the gateway hypothesis?

A gateway drug is simply a drug that opens up the door to someone using and abusing more potent drugs, whether in combination or as a replacement to the original. While there are many instances of people using substances and being able to do so on a casual basis, there are many people that tend to stray toward more dangerous and powerful drugs. The possibility of any substance being a gateway drug is actually a hotly debated topic.

Some individuals deny the existence of gateway drugs while research has shown the opposite. One study brought to light that those who used marijuana were more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder (AUD) than those who did not. There has also been abundant data revealing that taking prescription pain pills can lead to heroin abuse with 86% of heroin users had previously abused prescription pain pills. Another study showed that 90% of cocaine users had formerly smoked nicotine; however, the debate remains as to if this was related or simply a part of the person’s character. Addiction is a disease, meaning that some people are more susceptible to it than others.

What are the most common gateway drugs?

It is rare that when someone decides to snort their first line of cocaine or take a tab of acid that it is their first time relying on a substance to make them feel better. It has become socially acceptable to have a drink after a long day of work. A cold beer after playing outside on a hot day is used in advertising on a regular basis. Some of the most common substances that are socially acceptable and legal lead some people down a path of addiction. The most common ones include:

The idea of one substance making it more likely for another to be abused was a concept that had been adopted in the 1970s and 80s. It was instituted to bring attention to the War on Drugs, which was using military and governmental force to diminish the effects of the illegal drug trade, as well creating programs that educated the population on the dangers of drugs. The fact that paths of neurons are altered by the gateway drug, in addition to the knowledge of where to get illicit drugs in the first place, can lead someone to delve into the world of experimenting and finding drugs that give them the high for which they are looking. One of the biggest fears of parents is the fact that their teen has graduated from experimenting with alcohol and marijuana to the fact that they may even be snorting lines of coke or injecting heroin. No matter if it did happen, if someone could not remain a casual user, it’s never too late to get help at a substance addiction treatment center.

Call (888) 644-6099 to get 24/7 help with treatment.